Just last week I was sitting with my cap, gown (and hood!) at the University of Georgia for my graduation ceremony honoring my Master’s Degree in Educational Administration and Policy (the best part of it all was sitting next to my fiancé who was also graduating). For some time now, I had imagined the day and how great it would feel to finally be done. My family would be there, I’d take pictures with my fiancé in our regalia, and we’d all go out and celebrate the fact that we were that much more educated.
“Ay mi hijito, el educado,” I could imagine my abuelita saying proudly. El educado…was that what someone would think or say about me? I started to think about what that meant. Exactly when did I become more educated? Was it when I walked across the stage or wrote that final assignment? Did it start well before all that?
The reality is that finishing my Master’s Program hasn’t made me feel any different about myself at all. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud to have accomplished this goal. I’m happy that, when I’m ready, I can now work as a school (assistant) principal. But if I am indeed more educated, it isn’t because of that piece of paper.
I think this is a common misconception, not just in the Latino community, but in our society in general. For multiple reasons, we equate a college degree with success. We seem to believe that this is the only way that one can get “educated” and that anything less is not as honorable.
How many of us, “college educated” or otherwise, are uneducated about the things that truly matter in the world around us? How many of us watch more hours of brainless television than we do reading, learning, and becoming truly educated? If I’ve learned anything in my 20+ years of schooling, it’s that a huge chunk (or the majority?) of the real education happens outside those classroom walls. But it only happens when we make that conscious decision that we want to better ourselves and the world around us.
I worry that some of my students will read this and think, “So we shouldn’t go to college, OK!” But of course that’s not the point. A college degree is something to be very proud of; it can open so many doors. That alone gives it plenty of value. As for Latinos, I’m sure almost everyone would agree that we need [a lot] more of us graduating from colleges and universities.
So yeah, I hesitate now to call myself ‘educated.’ I’d feel like that would be disrespecting my father, who’s one of the smartest people I know, yet doesn’t have as much formal education as I do. I’d be disrespecting my mother, who had to wait until her late 40’s to get her Bachelor’s degree. And I’d be disrespecting all those before me, who, for one reason or another didn’t get the same opportunities I did.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.